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The Canterbury Tales

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But shortly myn entente I wol devyse;
I preche of no-thing but for coveityse.
Therfor my theme is yet, and ever was—
Radix malorum est cupiditas.
Thus can I preche agayn that same vyce
Which that I use, and that is avaryce.
But, though my-self be gilty in that sinne,
Yet can I maken other folk to twinne
From avaryce, and sore to repente.
But that is nat my principal entente.
I preche no-thing but for coveityse;
Of this matere it oughte y-nogh suffyse.
“Let me put it another way: I preach out of sheer greed. That’s why I usually only give sermons about how the love of money is the root of all evil. That way I can preach about the same sin that I myself indulge in. But even if I’m guilty of the sin of greed, that doesn’t mean I can’t help others not to be greedy, now does it? But who am I kidding? I said I’m not preaching to save their souls. I preach only because I want to make money, and that, my friends, is that.



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Than telle I hem ensamples many oon
Of olde stories, longe tyme agoon:
For lewed peple loven tales olde;
Swich thinges can they wel reporte and holde.
What? trowe ye, the whyles I may preche,
And winne gold and silver for I teche,
That I wol live in povert wilfully?
Nay, nay, I thoghte it never trewely!
For I wol preche and begge in sondry londes;
I wol not do no labour with myn hondes,
Ne make baskettes, and live therby,
Because I wol nat beggen ydelly.
I wol non of the apostles counterfete;
I wol have money, wolle, chese, and whete,
Al were it yeven of the povrest page,
Or of the povrest widwe in a village,
Al sholde hir children sterve for famyne.
Nay! I wol drinke licour of the vyne,
And have a Ioly wenche in every toun.
But herkneth, lordings, in conclusioun;
Your lyking is that I shal telle a tale.
Now, have I dronke a draughte of corny ale,
By God, I hope I shal yow telle a thing
That shal, by resoun, been at your lyking.
For, though myself be a ful vicious man,
A moral tale yet I yow telle can,
Which I am wont to preche, for to winne.
Now holde your pees, my tale I wol beginne.
“Anyway, then I tell the people all the old familiar tales that they just love to hear over and over again. Stupid people like to hear those old stories, you know, because they’re easy to remember. And do you think that since I help cure the people of their greed by taking all their gold and silver that means I would ever live in poverty? Hell no! I refuse to live like a simpleton, working with my hands, making baskets. Being a traveling preacher is much more lucrative. I’m not trying to be an apostle who lives in holiness. No, I want money, nice clothes, and expensive food, even if I receive it from the poorest workingman or the poorest widow who can’t even feed her own starving children. No! I want wine and a woman in every town. But listen, listen. Now that I’ve drunk a beer or two, I’m going to tell you a story that I hope you’ll like because, even though I’m a pretty awful guy, I can still tell you a moral tale, one of the ones I usually tell people only for money. So sit back, relax, and I’ll tell you my story.”

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